After mixed results in the inaugural weekend of Big West play, the UCSB women’s soccer team returns to the friendly confines of Harder Stadium to kick off a four game home stand, beginning with matches against conference foes Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside this weekend. The Gauchos (4-7-1 overall, 1-1 in Big West) are still in search of their first home win, having gone 0-2-1 in their past three Santa Barbara engagements.
“Losing at home sucks,” junior forward Kailyn Kugler said. “We really want to play well at home … we play better at home, with our fans, friends and family there.”
Against the Titans (3-5-3, 1-0) on Friday, UCSB hopes to erase the memories of a 2-0 Titan shutout last year, one of only two conference losses the Gauchos suffered en route to their Big West Tournament win and emergence in the NCAA.
CSUF is looking for another clean sheet and just might get it if junior keeper Shannon Simpson continues her recent brilliance in goal. The Irvine native recorded two of her three season shutouts last weekend and has allowed only 11 goals in eight matches. Offensively, the Titans have yet to produce consistently as only four players have scored this year.
“I think we’ll come out stronger [than last year] against Fullerton,” Kugler said. “Last year we lost at Fullerton, but now that we play them at home, it’s different. I think as players we’re a lot stronger.”
As for Riverside (5-4-3, 0-1), the Highlanders are coming off a 1-0 loss to the aforementioned Titans in their conference home opener and are looking to get back into the win column. In contrast to the highly centralized nature of the Fullerton offense, seven different Highlanders have found the back of the net at least once this season.
Senior forward Denise Thomas leads her team with two goals and four points on the year. In goal, sophomore keeper Jessica White anchors a stalwart UCR defense that has only allowed six goals over 12 games, a number that puts them atop the conference leader board in that category. White herself ranks second in the Big West in total saves (64) and first in save percentage (.914).
“We haven’t really talked about [Riverside] yet,” Kugler said. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time, and now the focus is on Fullerton.”
UCSB kicks off against Cal State Fullerton today at 7 p.m. at Harder Stadium, and at 5 p.m. on Sunday when UC Riverside joins them on the pitch. As always, admission for students is free.